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Bureau County Genealogy and History

Genealogy Tips

Getting Started

Researching your family history can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It can and often does become an all consuming passion for those afflicted with this contagious condition..... You will find it difficult to pass a cemetery without saying to yourself; I wonder if any of my ancestors are there? or I wonder if anyone has documented this cemetery and its inhabitants? You will speak of your long dead ancestors as if you know them personally; you may be overcome by the need to make frequent visits to various records repositories to not only locate information about your ancestors, but to copy documents that later you will transcribe and submit to various online genealogy websites just on the off chance it just might help someone else!

While it may seem like a daunting task, beginning your own family tree research is quite simple really. First you choose a method of keeping track of all the information and documents you will acquire. You can do it all by pen and paper, but a good genealogy program makes life much simpler. There are several good programs available, both free and to purchase. Family Treemaker from The Generations Network, (Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com and Rootsweb.com) the cost of the program depends on the accessories that come with it. Two free programs are RootsMagic available for download at www.rootsmagic.com and Legacy Family Tree available for download at www.legacyfamilytree.com. Any of the three are quite adequate and give you the ability to create and print your own books, charts and trees as well as webpages. You will also need some place to stash all the documents and photos you will acquire. I recommend one or more (one for each family line) 3" 3 ring binders filled with clear plastic sleeves that you can just slip the items into without having to disturb them by punching holes. You will also need to arm yourself with pencils, pens, notebooks and index cards. A digital camera, handheld wand scanner and digital voice recorder while not necessary are very helpful. Personally I find portable plastic file boxes that are available at office supply stores or other super-stores (WalMart, KMart etc.)great for keeping everything you will need for your many trips to Libraries and records repositories all together.

Ok, you have all your supplies ready and now you are ready to start. The easiest way is to begin with yourself. Enter all the information asked for in the data entry window of your genealogy program or a family group sheet. You should also make copies of your birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other documents used as sources/documentation. It is very important that you document your sources as you go. Don't count on coming back to it later or it can become a chore to do. Set off with good habits of documenting your sources from day one and you will never have to search for your sources and documents later. If using a computer, scan your documents and photos and attach them to their owners and remember to backup your electronic files often

When you have entered all the information about yourself and your spouse and children, and grandchildren, move on to your parents and your siblings and their offspring. Before you know it you have documented 2 to 3 generations of your family. Next step is your grandparents and your parents siblings and off spring. Interview by phone or in person every family member you can and take notes. Write letters and e-mails to those you can't visit or call. Visit genealogy sites and message boards to find others who are researching the same family and most of all have loads of fun on your journey to discovery! You will find links to many helpful websites on our RESOURCES pages.

The most important thing is to HAVE FUN.... Involve your children and grandchildren and watch history come alive right in front of your eyes!

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